In Defense Of Trophies and Achievements
This noise and this noise can mean a lot to some people, and can be absolutely meaningless to others. Trophies and achievements have become a core part of the majority of video games (Nintendo being the major exception). This even led to a following of fanatics that play games almost solely for the Platinum trophy or more Gamerscore.
It started in 2005 when Microsoft rolled out the Gamerscore program on the Xbox 360. This made it so that all disc based games would have 1,000 achievable “points”. On the other hand, Xbox Live Arcade games (mainly indie and previous generation games) would have 200 achievable “points”. Valve followed suit in 2007 with achievements on their Steam platform. Sony launched their trophy system shortly after in 2008. Steam’s achievement system is similar to Microsoft’s, but Sony’s is a little different. Sony has a tier of trophies categorized in Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels. Generally speaking, these tiers are in order from easiest to hardest to obtain, respectively.
The commonality between all of these systems is what happens when you achieve a certain feat within a game. Beating a boss, finding all the secret items, finishing the game on hard difficulty, etc. These events reward players with a trophy or achievement showing to yourself and others what you have accomplished. Basically, it’s a digital scoreboard showing objectives the player has or hasn’t completed within any given game they’ve played.
Personally, I didn’t care about trophies or achievements at all when they were first implemented. I had been playing video games for over a decade before the achievement/trophy system launched. It was a foreign system that felt redundant. Despite this, I couldn’t help but notice that my Gamerscore was climbing higher and higher, as well as noticing my score in comparison to others. That’s when the competitive nature kicked in. I wanted to get more achievements in Bioshock than one friend and I wanted to get all the achievements in Shadow Complex before my other friend.
I could feel the shift towards caring more and more about these achievements. This led to lengthier gaming sessions and replayability in some games after the credits rolled. This was and still is one of my favorite aspects of achievement/trophy hunting. Rather than being done with the game once you’ve beaten it, you can keep playing it for more achievements. This fit perfectly within time and price parameters. Rather than constantly spending $60 for new games, I could get more mileage out of the games I had already paid for.
At that time, I played almost exclusively on the Xbox 360. I then bought a PlayStation 3 shortly after launch and enjoyed a few of the launch titles, but the trophy system hadn’t launched yet. When trophies became available, it was just as meaningless to me as the inception of Xbox 360’s Gamerscore system. But sure enough, I started getting trophies for Final Fantasy XIII, and the intrigue began. I’ve always treated the PlayStation systems as more of a singular experience, rather than the group experience that was more common for me on the Xbox 360. That gave me a new perspective on the achievement/trophy system: how much can I accomplish within this game on my own? Now the trophies I was earning were acting as a measuring stick for my own completionist standards.
It wasn’t until years later that I earned my first Platinum trophy. The game was Hotline Miami, and it was by no means an easy accomplishment. As of February 10th, 2020, the website PSNProfiles.com (a site that tracks all things related to Sony’s trophy system) states that only 9.38% of Hotline Miami players have obtained the Platinum trophy. This put me in the top 10% of Hotline Miami players, leaving me feeling more accomplished than if I would’ve just beaten the game. This started a trend of going the extra mile for trophies. The exception being if the game wasn’t fun or the trophy was too hard or time consuming to attain. I went on to obtain the Platinum trophies in Bloodborne, Hotline Miami 2, Borderlands 2, and several other difficult or time consuming games.
I also obtained extremely hard to get trophies like “Brimstone Boy” in the game Super Meat Boy. That trophy tasks you with beating the entire “Hell” area of the game (20 levels) without dying once. I didn’t set out to achieve these trophies from the onset, but in doing so, the resulting feeling was tremendous.
I’ll admit, there are also some games that I’ve played just for the sake of the trophies (My Name is Mayo!, being the best example). At least I haven’t sunk to the levels of Hannah Montana: The Movie (no offense to the five Hannah Montana fans still out there). I also realize that I will never be able to reach as high of a Gamerscore as Stallion83 or as many trophies as Hakoom, and I’m ok with that. As long as I’m enjoying the game and the achievements and trophies that I’m going after, I’m a happy camper. As it currently stands, I have over 50,000 Gamerscore and I’m level 30 on Sony’s trophy level with over 60 Platinums. To me, these achievements and trophies are not a waste of time or nonsensical. They are a way of engaging different types of players and their abilities.
What about you? Do you have a funny or crazy achievement and/or trophy obtaining story? Do you think they are great, or just a big waste of time?